Debates over what constitutes an illegal gambling machine continue in the Missouri Senate. The Senate committee held a hearing on a bill to ban pre-reveal games throughout the state.
It is illegal in Missouri to operate a slot machine outside of a legal casino, where state taxes take 21% of the net and pay a $2 fee for every two hours that a gambler is on the casino floor.
Several previous prosecutions for the use of the machines are still pending. At least two have resulted in guilty verdicts.
State Sen. Dan Hegeman, who proposed the bill, told the Government Accountability and Fiscal Oversight Committee that he’s convinced legislation isn’t needed for prosecutors to act.
He reminded the committee that a gambling company was convicted, fined and had its machines destroyed in Platte County last year.
“The conviction, lack of appeal and destruction of games in Platte County have taken away any impression that these games are legal,” Hegeman said.
Lobbyist Tom Robbins said the Hegeman’s bill is intended to put Wildwood-based Torch Electronics, one of the main vendors of games in the state, out of business.
Robbins argued that torch games are legal because players can find out if they will win before they put money into the machine. He said the games found to be illegal in Platte County required a player to deposit money before learning whether they win or lose.
“Our games are not gambling devices because they are not games of chance,” Robbins said.
Sen. Bill White, R-Joplin disagreed.
“It is a rather loose and fictitious argument to say this is not a game of chance,” White said. “People who sell pot could be considered a small business and it is illegal under our statutes.”
Robbins told the committee that the bill unfairly targets Torch, and other provisions in Hegeman’s bill that would strip liquor licenses from retailers that host the machines would force layoffs at those businesses.
“It is drafted, designed and targeted to put a single, family-owned business out of business,” he said.
The committee did not vote on Hegeman’s bill.